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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kearsley

Signs of Spring at Roberts Farm



This spring, 5th grade students are participating in an important citizen science project at Roberts Farm. During their class visits, students are tracking small seasonal changes in three tree species, estimating the number of buds that are breaking and leaves that are unfurling. These observations are uploaded to the Signs of the Seasons database, where scientists interested in phenology and climate change are compiling observations from community members across New England and the United States.

Using their backyards as laboratories, participants in the Signs of the Seasons program help scientists document the local effects of global climate change. Hundreds are trained to observe and record the phenology (seasonal changes) of common plants and animals living in their own communities — a citizen science project that fills a gap in regional climate research. Volunteers across Maine and now New Hampshire record the growth of milkweed, the nesting of robins, and more. The goal is to build a rich, detailed record of the region’s seasonal turns, a resource too costly to build without a network of citizen volunteers. The collected data are made available to our collaborating scientists and resource managers.


Engaging in this project encourages elementary students in the Oxford Hills to take their observations seriously and engages students by sparking curiosity and connecting their learning to the real world. While at Roberts Farm, students analyze the growth on Sugar Maple, Common Lilac, and Eastern White Pine trees. They compare their observation with other 5th grade classes and with statewide data on seasonal tree growth from last year. These activities are designed to strengthen data literacy, scientific inquiry, and to connect students to the natural world.

To Learn more about the Signs of the Seasons phenology project - click here.

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